Chelsea Handler Got High And Taught Me An Important Life Lesson

Chelsea Handler is lying in a hut in Peru, high out of her mind.

I am lying in my bed in New York, not high, watching Chelsea get high in a hut in Peru.

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A few months back, I was watching Chelsea Handler’s Netflix docu-series Chelsea Does. I was deep into an intense Netflix binge, rounding out my fourth and final episode of the season. I had started the season that morning and had only left my bed to grab Ben & Jerry’s out of the fridge. The whole situation is, to this day, debatably, my proudest moment.

Anyways, the last episode is called Chelsea Does Drugs and it’s about, you guessed it, drugs.

I was excited to watch this episode solely because I expected it to be entertaining and hilarious—which it was. I never expected it to be relatable. I never expected to gain some huge life truth from a very high Chelsea Handler. Yet, that’s kind of what happened.

In the episode, Chelsea travels to Peru to try the world’s most intense hallucinogenic, ayahuasca. She drinks the gross looking plant soup made by a Peruvian man, and sits alone in a hut while said Peruvian man stares at her. And then, she gets really high.

As a result of her high-ness, Chelsea has a realization. She goes on a long tangent about a lot of deep stuff, but one sentence in particular stood out to me. It’s about her sister, and how they’re two very different people.

“I thought ‘Why does she want to stay in New Jersey, why doesn’t she want to move?’ And then I was like, stop it, she’s not like you.”

It’s brief and in the big picture of existence, it’s not a terribly huge thought. But for me, at this particular moment in my life, it was an important thing to hear.

I’m a very judge-y person. I’m not proud of this fact. It’s not something I put on my resume or declare to a new friend, but it’s true. I judge people a lot. I judge people for their decisions, their dreams, for how often they watch Netflix.

I’m not sure why I judge. I’ll bet my therapist would tell you it has something to do with the insecurity I feel about anything I do, ever. Judging people is a comfortable and seemingly innocent way to quickly make myself feel better, in the comfort of my own brain.

This sounds really bad. I just want you to know that I am aware that this sounds really bad.

The problem with my constantly judging people—beyond the obvious fact that it’s a terrible thing to do—is that over time, my judge-y-ness has become fixated on the people I spend all my time with. I spend too much time secretly judging my friends, the people I like the most in this world.

I’m from a small town in the Midwest.  A lot of people from the Midwest dream of leaving the Midwest. A lot of people from the Midwest dream of staying in the Midwest. I fall under the first category and most of my favorite people fall under the second.

In my own little head, the thought of staying in the Midwest forever sounds, frankly, terrible. What I want to do with my life—the jobs I want to have, the goals I’ve set for myself—they can’t happen at home. I have to move. I want to move.

My friends, my best friends in the whole wide world, want to stay in the Midwest. They envision themselves moving down the street from our university, settling down mere hours away from where they grew up.

Of course I like my plan better—it’s my plan. But as a result of their intensely different goals and dreams, I’ve been subtly judging my friends for a long time.

If my hypothesis about the connection between judging people and insecurity is correct, then I probably turn internal fear into external judgement. Because I’m afraid of my future. I’m overwhelmed by my goals. And commenting on other people’s futures—of which I have no say or power—is a lot easier than working on myself.

For too long, I’ve been unable to wrap my head around my friend’s life plans, selfishly unsatisfied with their perspective futures.

But why? Because they’re different from mine?

Chelsea’s realization about her sister became my realization too. Just because Chelsea’s sister doesn’t want to leave New Jersey doesn’t mean she’s not an adventurous, successful, brave, interesting human being.

Just because my friends and I have different life plans doesn’t mean that one is better than the other. They’re just different. And different is good.

Judging people for finding a path, for actively seeking out a future that excites them—it’s just a huge waste of time. Judging people instead of bettering yourself? Now that’s just stupid. Other people’s dreams have nothing to do with you, or me, so why not just be happy for them? Why not just encourage them and love on them?

Thank you, very high Chelsea Handler. You made me a better person.